Reverend Father Reginald Malicdem, rector of the Manila Cathedral; Reverend Father Paul Reagan Talavera OP, parish priest of Santisimo Rosario Parish; my dear brother priests, my esteemed confreres in the Order of Preachers; deacons, persons in consecrated life; beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:
With joy and enthusiasm, I welcome you all to the Manila Cathedral. I particularly welcome the parishioners of Santisimo Rosario Parish of UST, and I happily receive in our midst this venerable image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, on her Dalaw Patrona. We welcome her image back here in Intramuros, where she was first enshrined.
Dear brothers and sisters: Dalaw Patrona is not just today; rather it happens every day. Mama Mary is constantly visiting us in our homes and in our hearts. Dinadalaw tayo ni Inang Maria sa ating mga bahay at buhay. Our Gospel reading today teaches us three important lessons about the visitation of Our Lady: caring for others, greeting one another, and rejoicing in the Lord.
The first lesson is caring for others, paglingap sa kapwa. We heard in the Gospel that Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who being of advanced age, is having a very delicate pregnancy.
In the Hebrew language, the word for “visit” is paqad. But in Hebrew, the verb paqad does not only mean physically transfering oneself to be in the presence of another person; it also includes the act of attending to another person, caring for that person, and doing acts of service for that person. That is why, when the Bible says that “God has visited his people”, this means that God has looked after us and cared for us. And when Jesus said “I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you visited me,” that meant he wants us to take care of the sick and imprisoned among us.
The visit of Mama Mary in our homes and in our hearts means that she is taking care of us. Nililingap tayo ni Inang Maria. Mahal na mahal tayo ni Maria, at hindi nya tayo pinababayaang mawalay mula sa magiliw at mainit na yakap ng pagkalinga niya.
And so brothers and sisters, let us also visit one another. Let us take care of one another. Lingapin din natin ang isa’t isa. Let us look after those who are alienated and marginalized, those who are left behind this fast-paced frenetic world, those who are in dire need of the mercy of God. Our care for the last, the least, and the lost mirrors the visitation of Our Lady among us.
A second important lesson about the visitation of Our Lady is greeting one another, pagbati sa isa’t isa. Saint Luke recounts that the very first gesture that Mary performed upon arriving at the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth, was to greet her cousin. We could imagine that she was actually performing the very same gesture that the angel did upon appearing to her. The angel greeted her, “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.”
My dear brothers and sisters, greeting may be a small and simple gesture, but its esteem and meaning is vital and essential. It is not merely a cultural trend or social norm. It strikes to the core of our being and personhood, because whenever we greet someone, we are actually acknowledging and honoring the presence and importance of a person. To greet a person is to recognize that a brother or sister is in our midst, that we are in the presence of the beloved. A greeting is so important, such that the failure or refusal to greet a person is actually a sign that we neglect, reject, or disrespect that person.
Huwag natin maliitin ang pagbati. Ang pagbati ay isang mainam na paraan ng pagkakawanggawa. Minsan, may mga taong nag-iisa, nalulumbay, nangangamba; at ang munti ngunit taimtim na pagbati natin ang makaliligtas sa kanila muli sa dilim ng lungkot at takot. A simple greeting could offer hope to depressed, assurance to the anxious, peace to hostile, and encouragement to the lost.
May mga tao ba sa buhay natin na ayaw nating batiin, mga taong ayaw natin makasalubong sa daan, mga taong iniiwasan natin sa lahat ng paraan at pagkakataon? Makipagbatí na tayo sa mga taong ayaw nating batiin. Ang mga taong ayaw magbatian sa isa’t isa ay mga taong nilalason ang puso nila sa sarili nilang pait at sungit. They think that their coldness protects them; they don’t realize that they are just harming themselves.
Like Mary and Elizabeth, let us greet one another with sincerity and charity. Let us acknowledge the personal value of others.
And a third lesson we can learn from Mama Mary’s Dalaw Patrona is rejoicing in the Lord, kagalakan sa Panginoon. The visit of Mary was an occasion marked by joy! As soon as Mary greeted her cousin Elizabeth, the baby John in her leaped with joy. Elizabeth too was filled with joy, and Mary responded by erupting into her joyful Magnificat song.
Let this visit of the image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary be an experience of the grace of joy. Let us rejoice, my dear brothers and sisters, because the Lord is with us (Mt 28:20; Lk 1:28). Like Mama Mary, let us rejoice in the Lord.
Why were Mary, Elizabeth, and John joyful? Was it because everything is already okay? Was it because the world is already perfect? Actually, problems still exist, hunger and poverty still prevails, violence and injustice still continues. Mary will still suffer much sorrows: innocent infants will be massacred, the Holy Family will be forced to migrate to Egypt, the boy Jesus will be lost in the temple, and eventually he will be killed and shamed on the cross. Despite all these, Mary was able to sing her Magnificat. Mababaw ba ang kaligayahan ni Maria? Hindi. Sa totoo lang, malálim ang kagalakan niya. Dahil ang kagalakan ni Maria ay hindi nakadepende sa pera, reputasyon, o seguridad; sa halip, nagalak ang kanyang espiritu sa Diyos na tagapagligtas. Nagagalak si Maria dahil alam nyang kapiling natin ang Panginoon. Mary rejoiced because she knows that God is present and active in her life, in the history of Israel, and in the events of the world.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank our dear Mama Mary for visiting us today here at the Manila Cathedral. Let us thank her for bringing us Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us thank her for teaching us to care for another, greet one another, and together rejoice in the Lord.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, guide us and pray for us. Amen. (Photo by Jheng Prado/RCAM-AOC)